Welcome Biden, says (most of) LatAm (Nov. 9, 2020)
Latin America's media followed the U.S. election last week with baited breath -- and many in the region welcomed Democratic candidate Joe Biden's victory. The Trump administration fulfilled many region's darkest perspectives on the powerful neighbor to the north, and now Latin America media is optimistically hoping for the close of a period of misunderstanding, reports Foreign Policy. Vice president-elect Kamala Harris is a particularly inspiring figure the region's powerful feminist movements who are battling an epidemic of gender violence in some countries.
Argentine President Alberto Fernández was the first Latin American president to congratulate Biden, and Uruguayan president, Luis Lacalle Pou, also sent his felicitations. Right wing presidents, including Chilean Sebastían Piñera and Colombian Iván Duque also congratulated Biden. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel was optimistic. “We believe in the possibility of having a constructive bilateral relation while respecting our differences," he tweeted. U.S: President Donald Trump has enacted hostile policies towards Cuba, and reversed much of Barack Obama's historic thaw between the two Cold War enemies. (Washington Post) Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, saluted Harris’s “monumental accomplishment for women” as well as her Jamaican heritage. (Washington Post)
But the silences are telling: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador remained silent. (Univisión)
Bolsonaro has sought to emulate Trump, and has a warm personal relationship with the outgoing leader. Bolsonaro himself has stayed quiet, apparently in following the guidance of his advisors. Brazilian diplomatic staff have made contact with the Biden campaign, according to the Associated Press. But Bolsonaro's politically active sons have not been so circumspect. Lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro posted images on social media questioning how Biden’s votes were rising so quickly in later counts, while Trump’s weren’t. The younger Bolsonaro also questioned networks’ decision to cut away from Trump’s speech on Wednesday alleging vote fraud, calling it an attack on freedom of speech.
Trump's defeat will increase pressure on Bolsonaro on environmental issues. Much of the international community has condemned his stewardship of the Amazon rainforest, devastated on his watch by fire and deforestation, reports the Washington Post. Biden has threatened economic consequences for continued deforestation.
AMLO, who comes from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum and had a conflictive relationship before taking office, has established an effective working relationship with Trump, and said he would wait until legal challenges to the vote count are resolved. Mexican officials said the decision was born of a desire to avoid provoking Trump while he remained in the White House, but critics say AMLO is starting off on the wrong foot with the next U.S. -- by far Mexico's most important bilateral relationship. A Biden presidency is unlikely to strongarm Mexico as overtly as the Trump administration has on migration, which will throw the current balance between the two countries off: AMLO has implemented unpopular crackdowns on migration in response to U.S. threats, and in return the U.S. has largely remained silent on the Mexican government's economic policies, reports the Guardian.
In fact, that trade-off has quietly benefited a number of countries in the region, who have become accustomed to tolerating Trump's ultimatums in exchange for a blind eye, according to the Financial Times.
Biden is expected to lead a more cooperation focused foreign policy in general, which will particularly shift the U.S. approach to Venezuela and migration in Latin America, according to Jason Marczak, director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.
Though Biden is reportedly planning a flurry of executive orders aimed at reversing some of his predecessor's most controversial policies, a closely divided Congress could hamper Biden’s efforts to do sweeping legislative actions on immigration changes, notes the Washington Post.
Biden will be under significant pressure to reverse Trump's draconian approach to migration, but could face a surge of Central American migrants if he does so, notes the FT.
Luis Arce assumed Bolivia's presidency yesterday. He condemned last year's ouster of his mentor, former president Evo Morales, and criticized the conservative interim administration that followed as “brutal," reports the Associated Press. Arce promised “to rectify what was bad and deepen what was good” about the 14-years of Morales administration. Arce oversaw Bolivia's economic boom as Morales' economy minister, and has pledged to retake that state-led model to rebuild and stabilize the economy.
Arce told the Guardian that his emphatic first-round win showed Latin Americans would no longer accept anti-democratic, rightwing regimes. “We have reclaimed democracy for Bolivia, and our message is that we will not tolerate any kind of de facto dictatorial regime or coup in Latin America.” While he does not consider his election to be a return of the pink tide, he plans to repair relationships in the region severed by the interim-government: Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina. But Arce also signalled he would be pragmatic, “leaving matters of ideology and politics to one side” when dealing with leaders of different stripes. “We want to do good business with our neighbours,” he said.
Arce was targeted by a dynamite attack on the MAS party headquarters last week, though there were no injuries. The MAS party criticized the interim-government for failing to protect the then president-elect. (La Nación)
Hurricane Eta's official death toll in Central America was more than 60 this weekend, but Guatemalan officials said more than 150 people were likely killed in mudslides in the remote mountain village of Quejá. Rescue operations across Honduras and Guatemala have been slowed by destroyed roads and bridges. The Category 4 storm left a trail of devastation and heavy rains from Panama to southeastern Mexico and made landfall in Cuba today. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans began evacuating their homes on Saturday as Eta neared the Caribbean island’s southern coast, threatening torrential rain and flooding. The storm has affected thousands of plantations and could fuel migrant flows from Central America to the U.S. (New York Times, Reuters, Reuters, Financial Times)
China has quietly, but assertively, sought to expand its influence in the Caribbean through government grants and loans, investments by Chinese companies, and diplomatic, cultural and security efforts. The efforts have been welcomed by governments in the region, but viewed with suspicion by the U.S. Trump administration, reports the New York Times. (See Friday's briefs.)
Colombian armed groups have profited from measures aimed at restricting Covid-19, and children have been recruited at drastically increased rates. (Guardian)
Environmentalists have criticised a three-day tour of the Amazon that the Brazilian government staged for foreign ambassadors as a “sham” and “media propaganda” after it failed to stop at any environmentally devastated areas, reports the Guardian. Brazil’s vice-president, Hamilton Mourão, who hosted the tour and heads the government’s Amazon council, said seeing the effects of Amazon deforestation and fires close up was “not necessary." The trip was organized after eight European countries urged Brazil to take “real action” over deforestation.
Mexican lawmakers have until mid-December to create a regulatory framework for cannabis, in response to a Supreme Court ruling. But advocates are concerned that the proposed legislation would favor large corporations over small businesses and family-owned farms, while doing little to address the issues at the root of the country’s illegal drug trade, reports the Washington Post.
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